Sunday, November 15, 2009

Two Kings

Two kings, chosen by God to lead the people of Israel. Two Kings who, early in their reign, would be given the choice of obedience or disobedience to the very God who had given them their kingdoms. Two kings, I could not help but reflect on their stories as I stood there at Beth-Shen in Israel, the wind blowing softly though the top of the tress. For it was there at Beth-Shen that one would reap the repercussions of his choice, even as the other was being elevated to the place of authority.

Saul had been ruling for but two years when we first find him in an encounter with the Philistines. Though their numbers were few, the men of Israel won the battle, as Saul’s son, Jonathan, led the charge and defeated an entire garrison of Philistine warriors. Taking the credit as his own, Saul proclaimed that a trumpet was to be blown throughout the land of Israel to announce his great victory.

But the war was not yet over. Just days later the Philistines regrouped, complete with thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops that numbered “like the sand on the seashore”. Men of Israel who just days before had been dancing in celebration, now found themselves caves…in holes…in rocks…in cisterns…even in tombs. Their fear was palatable, permeating the very air that they breathed.

Have you ever been there? Frightened, surrounded by all that is causing you to tremble? If you are like me, you just want to do something…anything! Anything, that is, but wait. And yet, that is so often what God asks of us. To wait. To give God time to work.

That was God’s word to King Saul. Wait, Saul, just wait. In seven days Samuel will come and make an offering. In seven days you will see my plan, be given direction. In seven days I will make my way known. But Saul could not wait. He was too afraid…of his enemies, of his own people, of losing his kingdom. Decisions made that day would culminate on a mountain overlooking Beth-Shen, where Saul would be cut down in battle; his body hung on a tree in that ancient city, his Kingdom given to another.

Another who would come and find himself in an almost identical situation. Surrounded by the Philistines, David inquired of the Lord as to what he should do. Such wisdom. The Lord told David to go forth, that He would give them victory over their enemy. God did as He promised, and David declared, “The Lord has burst through my enemies before me like a bursting flood”, giving all glory to God. Such humility.

Some time later the Philistines regrouped, on the attack once again. Had I been David I would have gone forth immediately to attack, assuming that God would provide the victory as before. Not David. It is recorded in the book of 2 Samuel that David inquired of the Lord. Again. And what was the Lord’s answer? “Wait, David, wait.”

There it is again. Wait. For what? To give God time to work. “Wait, David, until you hear the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees. For then, the Lord will have gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.”

Try telling that to your army.

“What is your command, oh King?”

“Wait until you hear the wind in the top of the trees.”

Surely they would have thought him a bit crazy, which, perhaps, David was. Crazy about God, the one who had chosen him, an insignificant shepherd boy, to be King of all Israel. Crazy enough to believe that if God said he would send a wind in the trees as a sign that it was time to march to victory, then surely victory would be theirs. Crazy enough to wait for that wind to blow.

He did not question how he would be able to distinguish the wind of God from the every day breeze that blows. This was a man after God’s own heart, a man who made a practice of listening to the voice of God. This was a man who would not find his end on a desolate hill somewhere overlooking Beth-Shen, but rather he was a man to whom God made the promise, “I will establish your Kingdom forever”.

Oh that I might be like David, so in tune with the voice of my Lord that I am willing, at His command, to wait. To give Him time to work. To quell the voice of fear that tells me waiting is foolish, that action is required. To wait until I hear the wind of His spirit blowing, going before, that the victory and glory might be His. May I choose to look towards that Kingdom which is forever, where I will spend eternity with the King of Kings.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What Are You Doing?

“Whatareyoudoing?” Somehow when my little grandson Zach says those words, all run together, it brings a smile to my face, for he is asking gently, out of curiosity. Often it is when I am out of sight, perhaps upstairs as he is finding ways to keep himself busy downstairs. As though in need of reassurance, he simply inquires to know that I am still nearby.

I am sure he has heard those same words often, from the lips of his mama, in a slightly different vein, “Zach…What are you doing?”

You have to know, Zach is an adventurous, busy little fellow who could be up to most anything. Think Curious George. Most likely he has found himself doing something he probably shouldn’t have.

I am so like Zach. I come to my Father and ask, gently, “What are you doing Lord?” Not so much that I might correct Him, but that I might know He is there and has a purpose for what He is doing in my life. Like Zach, I just seek to know and be comforted by the sound of His voice, to know that He is near and watching out for me.

Yet that same voice which has brought comfort and reassurance so many times also asks of me, “Robyn…What are you doing?

And I am reminded that I am but a child whose heart is prone to wander, to lose sight of Him, to find myself caught up in places I ought not go. I pursue my way down footpaths of fear and streets of self-will, tempted to enter rooms of rebellion through doorways of doubt. Like Zach, I sometimes find it hard to be content within the confines of the place I am asked to stay.

And so, like the sweet Psalmist of old, I am thankful that God knows my heart yet loves me still. I welcome the touch of his nail pierced hand.

Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Sweet Fragrance

Had you stepped outside early this morning you would have felt it. The wind was blowing. That in it’s self is not so unusual here in the high desert, but this morning was a rare gift, for it is mid-October yet the morning was warm and beckoning. I could not resist. Quickly I grabbed my cup of coffee and slipped outside to watch the majesty of God’s colors unfold in the rising sun, even as the breeze danced through the tops of the towering pines.

As I was touched by it’s force and embraced by it’s urgent whisper, I was reminded of how Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to the wind, blowing where it will at God’s direction. We feel His touch and hear the sound of His voice, without always realizing from whence it has come. Yet it is that same Spirit which indwells each child of God, blowing in and through us…picking up the fragrance of our heart… allowing the world around us to catch the sweet savor of God emanating from our lives.

How I have longed for that sweet fragrance to be what flows from my life. Yet I am reminded that it only comes in one way. Mary understood this. Just days prior, she had caught a glimpse of eternity, as Jesus had called forth her brother Lazarus from the grave. Life triumphed where death once ruled, but the ultimate victory would only come at a great price.

Jesus had now come to their home at the start of that final week. In just a few short days, all history would climax around the Son of God who willingly became the sacrificial Lamb of God. In adoration and love Mary brought that which was to her, most precious. Sorrow mixed with joy as she knelt at the feet of Jesus, breaking open the alabaster jar she had brought with her for this very purpose. Tenderly she anointed his feet with the oil that spilled forth from the broken vessel. In love she ministered to her Lord, the unmistakable sweet aroma of what she had given to Jesus filling the room.

How I desire that my life might put forth that same fragrance; that the wind of the Spirit might carry it to those who are in need of refreshing. How I desire it, yet how I tremble at the cost. I look for an easy way that I might avoid the breaking. I ask God to release a sweet fragrance even as I remain whole. It cannot be. It is in the breaking process that I find myself at the feet of Jesus. As I minister to Him, others are touched by the overflow of what has been given and is now given back to my Lord and Savior. There is no other way.

And so like Mary, I turn my focus to the One whose body was broken for me. I kneel before the One whose blood was spilled out that I might be saved. I see Him as the one who gave all for me and I know, I can offer no less. And through my tears, I feel the wind begin to blow…..

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Show Me Your Glory

Moses, who had found favor in God’s sight, Moses of whom God said, “I know you by name”. This same Moses was summoned by God to a place of meeting on the mountain where God promised to show him His glory.

What anticipation must have filled his heart as he awaited the next day’s dawning, for it was in the morning that God had promised to reveal Himself to His humble servant. Alone and in awe he climbed the mountain, pushing upward to the place the Lord commanded. At last he positioned himself in the cleft of the appointed rock, high atop Mt. Sinai, surely wondering to himself, “What will I see as God’s glory passes by?”

Then it happened, “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”

Moses response was as Isaiah’s- and Peter’s- and mine. For once I have seen the true nature of my Lord, once I understand He is a God of righteousness and justice and truth, my only recourse is to run into His arms of mercy and grace, to find shelter in His steadfast love, for that IS the glory of God. Like Moses I bow my head in worship, amazed that the God of all creation would choose to love me and forgive my sin, and to take me for HIS inheritance.

I have seen His glory. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” I have known His glory, for I have known and am known by Jesus.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Safe Waters

I love talking with my grandchildren, which is why I was on the phone with Gabe earlier this summer, even though he was camping up at Suttle Lake. I knew the day had been warm and his mommy and daddy were planning on taking him and his little brother swimming at nearby Scout Lake, so I thought I would check in to see how it went.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Hi Gabe, did you go to the lake with your mommy and daddy today?”

“Yes, gramma”.

“Did you have fun swimming in the lake, Gabe?”

“No, gramma.”

“Didn’t you like swimming with your Daddy?”

“No gramma, ‘cuz if you want to swim, YOU HAVE TO GET ALL WET!”

To which I had no reply. But later I thought about that little conversation. You have to know, Gabe LIKES water. He likes to take a bath, he loves to run through the sprinklers and he even enjoys swimming in our community pool. Then it struck me, those are all very safe, controlled environments where he can see the bottom or control the flow. Swimming in a lake could, indeed, be quite frightening. You don’t know what lurks beneath and beyond and there is always a chance you will go to far from the safety of the shore.

How often through my life have I cried out to the Lord, “I want to know you more.” But I want it on my terms, in the safety of what I can see and control. He calls out as he did to Peter that day in the storm, “Come”. But I am afraid, knowing that I, like Peter, may sink into the depths. And so I content myself to wade along the shore, longing for more but afraid of the “what ifs?” I know my Father is there, I know he has promised to care for me, yet still I hold back, knowing that to swim, I will have to “get all wet”.

Peter understood this well, which is why he was brutally honest with Jesus that day on the shore of Galilee. He knew his own heart; he knew his failings and his fears. Gone was the bluster and blow of just a few weeks prior. Read the story in John. After the resurrection, Jesus comes again to some of his disciples. They are out in a boat, fishing, something they know well and find a comfortable familiarity in, even though they fished all night and caught absolutely nothing! In the morning, they saw a man standing on the shore. He called out to them asking if they had any fish. Unlike many a fisherman, they chose to answer honestly. “No”, was the curt reply.

Then came the exhortation, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” I suspect it was at that time they began to wonder just WHO the man was that was giving them instructions. The words must have seemed vaguely familiar, but it was not until they followed the command and landed a haul of fish larger than they were able to handle, that Peter realized, “It is the Lord!”

Jumping out of the boat Peter heads to shore, for, as the scripture records, “They were not far from land.” Safe territory, Peter could handle this.

After a breakfast of fish, prepared by Jesus himself, Peter found himself alone with the Lord. Then came the question, not once but three times. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

I hear that question a lot, of late. "Robyn, do you love me?” Like Peter, I find myself hedging, for I know what my response will cost. “If you love me” Jesus says, “you will keep my commandments.”

What is he asking of me? That I take up His cross, that I give up control of my life, that I launch out into waters where I do not know what lies below and beyond. And always, always, there is the danger that I will be so far from the safety of shore I will have to rely totally upon Him.

Jesus knows my heart and yet he keeps asking, that I might know my heart. Finally I, like Peter, respond, “Yes, Jesus, I love you.” His response is simple and sincere, “Follow me.”

Though I love the safety of the shore, I yearn to know Him more. And so, I follow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life with Laura

When Laura was born, a good friend told us of a proverb she learned from her mother who was of Chilean descent, “Every baby is born with a basket of bread in their arms”. How we needed that encouragement, as our youngest entered our family in a season of upheaval and change. Indeed it was true, the years following her birth saw an increase in our family’s “bread”, but more importantly, Laura has brought to us joy beyond measure, brightening our lives for this past twenty-one years. And now, she is getting married!

As one might imagine, life in our home has been busy as we prepare for this, our second wedding in the family in six months. The result? Blog postings have been few and far between as time has been given to the flurry of wedding planning. But as we enter the two-week countdown to her marriage, I thought it would be fun to share this newsletter column I wrote sixteen years ago, a small window into life with Laura!

It really wasn’t a long trip as one might measure distance, just another busy day in the Anderson house. We were on our way home from kindergarten, chatting about the day’s events when the light ahead turned red. It wasn’t that we were in a hurry to go anywhere, but my impatient five year old quickly surveyed the situation and seeing no other cars at the intersection instructed, “Mom, just run the red light!”

Patiently I explained that the light was, in fact, red and I would have to wait for it to turn green before proceeding. Still not understanding the logic of this delay, Laura persisted, “But Mom, there aren’t any policemen near-by to see you.”

Trying to give her a proper perspective, I responded, “But Laura, God would see me disobey and run the light.”

To which she indignantly replied, “Right, and I’m sure God is going to come down here and give you a ticket!”

As mature adults we may not verbalize our feelings in such an honest manner, yet our actions display the true degree of integrity in our lives. The clerk at the store under-charges us for an item and we walk away, pleased that we came out ahead this time. The amusement park charges for children over age twelve, so of course our kids are forever eleven. Our child’s room mother needs a volunteer for just a few hours, but we know without a doubt we already have something scheduled for that exact time.

And so we quiet the voice of the Holy Spirit who tells us we have been less than true to ourselves and to our God, rationalizing that no one will ever know what has occurred. So often we measure the rightness of our deeds by the reaction of those around us, rather than seeking to know how our heavenly Father would have us to respond.

Integrity, being above reproach in all that we do, not because someone might see and criticize our actions, but because the God we claim to love and serves demands nothing less. “You shall be Holy unto me, for I am Holy” declares the Lord. May we be those who follow wholly after Him.

Forever our "baby", congratulations on your upcoming marriage to Ryan! Can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for the two of you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Beauty of His Creation

Coming from a world still slumbering in winter, I could not help but marvel time and time again at the spectacular array of color that greeted us on our trip to Jacksonville a couple weeks ago. Flowering plums, dressed in their dazzling display of pink provided the backdrop for the golden forsythia that had just burst upon the scene with all the brilliance of the midday sun. As if on cue from the Master Director, the purple and white carpet of crocuses yielded to the dancing daffodils as the smiling faces of pretty pansies smiled in appreciation.

What a wonderful God we serve, who has chosen to fill our lives with so much color and beauty. Trees that lie dormant and barren all winter long are called upon to brighten our world each spring, each in their own season as God has directed. Making their display even more dramatic is the backdrop provided by the towering evergreens, so often overlooked in the kaleidoscope of spring, yet it is these which remain constant, through the searing heat of summer and the deep snows of winter.

In His love, God has given us the capacity to appreciate His creation, in all of its splendor and majesty. In His wisdom, God has chosen to adorn with great diversity His most precious creation, His people. Each child of God, created in His image, has a special beauty and purpose which has been given to enhance the lives of those around them. Some have gifts and talents which burst forth in such spectacular fashion, the world cannot help but take notice. Others, like the evergreen, are steady and strong through all the seasons of life, but often slip through life unnoticed and ignored.

Just as we appreciate the splendid array God gives us through the scenes of nature, may we also remember to cherish the differences found in His people. Although it may be hard to understand, God often chooses to place the fragile splendor of a rose in the midst of the sharpest thorns. May we remember seek to find the beauty of our Lord in those around us and in so doing, find our own hearts enriched by the fragrance of their lives.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sharing our Joy

Life has settled back into what we call normal here at the Anderson house. For those of you who have wondered at the lack of blog postings this past month, it has been a wonderfully, joyous, busy time as we celebrated the wedding of our son, Brett, to his beautiful new bride, Jessica.

While it has been exciting, it also has not allowed for a lot of free time to write. I hope to have a new posting up today or tomorrow, but for now, you can share a glimpse into our joy through a few photos of the blessed event.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blessed in the Eyes of the Lord

It was not where I had planned for our study in John chapter 9 to go this past Thursday. My intent was to focus on the parallels of the man who “once was blind but now could see”. Somehow we stalled on the first couple of versus, camping on the question the disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” From there it was but a short leap to the topic of sickness and death, not a very uplifting way to begin a new year.

Chalk it up to being past the half-century mark in age, but whatever the reason it is a topic that has been the focal point in a number of conversations I have had of late. To be honest, I have found myself struggling with the sadness I see around me as the reality of the shortness of life here on earth takes it’s toll on friends I count quite dear. In the midst of my struggles, the Lord reminded me of something I wrote a number of years ago, shortly after the death of my beloved mother-in law. God’s truths remain and just as the re-reading of this short exhortation encouraged my own heart, I pray it will do the same for you.

June 1992

Bursting with promise, June announces its arrival, heralding the season of summer which we so longed for during the dreary days of winter. Yet even as I anticipate it’s coming, my heart is drawn back to the days of another June one year past, as I stood at the hospital room bedside of my beloved mother-in-law, knowing each breath drawn brought her one step closer to her Lord and another further away from those of us who did not wish to let her go.

“Blessed in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints”, writes the psalmist, but I could find no blessing in such a painful parting. Even as the last hymn was sung and the final flowers placed on her grave, I struggled with those words, knowing the emptiness I would feel in the days to come. Gone were the words of encouragement, the thoughtful deeds, the midnight prayers, the unconditional love that had sustained me through some difficult years. She had left us and life would never be the same.

We struggle so with change, with transitions, with saying good-bye to that which we hold so dear. We read the scriptures admonishing us to die continually to our old way of living if we would choose to walk anew with Christ; and though in our hearts we know it to be true, our very being resists relinquishing control, fearful of letting go of that which we know for that which we can only being to catch a glimpse. Yet, as we yield our way, as each breath we take draws us closer to surrendering all that we are...every right that we claim… to the One who wishes to bear all our burdens, what was once a fleeting hope becomes a wonderful reality. Each day we walk with Christ as our sole source of strength, we discover a peace and joy unsurpassed in our fondest dreams.

As we lay aside our own willful desires and aspirations, as we die to our own strategies and thoughts, we are ushered into a realm of living guided by His Holy Spirit. As we surrender our all to Him, He comes and dwells in our midst, offering His comfort and hope, His strength and encouragement, His unconditional love. What blessing will be ours when one day we cross death’s eternal threshold, laying aside all that we have clung to so tightly here upon this earth. In just a moment, we will enter in to His glorious presence, there to dwell forever with the One we have loved so long.

And so, with the psalmist we can say, “Blessed in your eyes oh Lord is the death, the homecoming, of those you love so well.”